Queens Republicans – Rest in peace (RIP)

| lpenner@queenscourier.com |

With the recent potential indictments of both GOP Councilmember Dan Halloran and Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairperson Vincent Tabone, NYC Councilmember Eric Ulrich may be the last Republican Party elected official still standing in November assuming he can survive the General Election.

One way of judging the health of any political party is looking at the number of candidates running for public office that qualify for ballot status on their line. Political parties are organized on a State Assembly basis with a male and female State Committee person. Within each Assembly district are a series of election districts represented by two district committee people. Real political parties find candidates and enough active registered party members to circulate nominating petitions. You only need five percent of registered Republican Party members within any Assembly district to qualify for ballot status as a candidate for the Assembly. The average Republican Party enrollment per Assembly district averages several thousand. Finding this should be easy. This is necessary to acquire sufficient signatures for qualifying candidate ballot status. Those political parties that can’t perform this most basic task exist only on paper and are essentially dead. Up until the 1980s, Republican Party members routinely qualified candidates for all Congressional, State Senate, Assembly and NYC Council seats.

In 2012, there were no GOP candidates on the ballot for one of six Congressional, three of seven State Senate and 13 out of 18 State Assembly races in the 2012 November General Election. Watch how many Democratic NYC Councilmembers will get a free pass with no GOP opponent in the General Election.

Incumbents start off with the perks of public office and an overwhelming five-to-one or more Democratic to Republican voter registration edge in most neighborhoods. They have easy access to various special interest “pay-to-play” contributors who are always looking for political favors at taxpayers’ expense at a later date. They also have ample public funds for numerous mailings to constituents along with announcement of member items (local pork barrel projects) to grease the wheels of re-election. Don’t forget staff-written letters to the editors and guest op-ed page columns, which frequently appear in local weekly community and daily newspapers. All of the above is at taxpayers’ expense. Local GOP candidates can’t seriously mount effective campaign efforts other than speaking at public forums sponsored by local civic associations.

Despite overwhelming Democratic Party enrollment in Queens, creative gerrymandering by the GOP-controlled Senate in 1980, 1990 and again in 2000 preserved the seats of both Republican Senators Maltese and Padavan.

The last Republican Congress member from Queens who served multiple terms was Seymour Halperin. After the 1972 reapportionment, he declined to run against Democrat Lester Wolff of Great Neck when both were merged into one Queens/Nassau district. In 1982, GOP Congress member John LeBoutellier briefly recaptured this seat for one term. In 2011, GOP Bob Turner won the 9th CD special election to replace Democrat Anthony Weiner in a Special Election. As a result of his district being gerrymandered out of existence, he ran and lost in the 2012 Republican Senate primary rather than seek reelection from another Congressional District.

Crossover Democrats, who voted for former Presidents Reagan and Bush “Senior” in the 1980s, Bush Junior in 2000 and 2004, former Mayor Giuliani in the 1990s along with Mayor Bloomberg in 2001, 2005 and 2009 continue to move out of town, retire out of state or succumb to old age. There has been no successful GOP outreach to new Caribbean, Hispanic, Asian and other immigrant groups. Attempts to reach middle class African-American homeowners in former GOP neighborhoods have failed.

For decades, once the GOP has lost an incumbent Assembly, Senate or Congressional representative, they are never able to reclaim the district.

After being elected in 1972, Padavan listed Republican-Conservative affiliations on his headquarters’ storefront. In the 1990s Padavan and Assemblymember Prescott team proudly campaigned as your local Republican/Conservative team. Local Republican and tea party activists in 2010 were disappointed when stopping by Padavan’s campaign re-election headquarters in Bayside, Queens. There was no literature, bumper stickers, posters or lawn signs at Padavan HQ for his fellow GOP running mates.

Why was Padavan so uncomfortable with his fellow GOP running mates? Perhaps it was the Cuomo, Schumer and Gillibrand Democratic juggernaut sweeping Queens with record numbers. A party’s ticket is only strong when all the candidates, from top to bottom, work as a team. Republicans are in trouble when they are afraid to identify party affiliations and campaign on their own with no coordinated effort between them. Other Republicans were confused with Padavan’s standard political campaign re-election theme “Nobody Cares Like Frank” when he obviously doesn’t care about them. Both Padavan and former GOP State Senator Serf Maltese failed for decades to build a Republican brand name when they ran from it.  No wonder Maltese lost in 2008 and Padavan lost in 2010.

In most Queens neighborhoods, decades have passed since local GOP candidates campaigned door to door, sent out mailings, or ran commercial advertising. When was the last time someone wore a campaign button for a Republican candidate, had a bumper sticker on their car or a lawn sign? Sorry, but in Queens County winning the September Democratic Party primary is a sure bet for November.

Queens Republicans are on the way to political extinction like the dinosaurs of old! How disappointing that voters will have to look elsewhere for any alternatives to the Queens County Democratic Party machine monopoly.

Thanks to Padavan and Maltese, within NYC — Queens joined the Bronx and Manhattan with no Republicans in Albany. Remember when NYC sent six GOP senators to Albany including Guy Vellela (Bronx) and Roy Goodman (Manhattan)? With the loss of Maltese (2008) and Padavan (2010), only GOP Senators Marty Golden (Brooklyn) and Andrew Lanza (Staten Island) remain. Democrats come out of NYC controlling 22 of the other 24 state Senate seats.  The failure of both Padavan and Maltese to only care about their respective next election rather than building a viable Queens GOP is the inheritance today’s generation of underdog Republican candidates including Eric Ulrich has to live with.